Governments need to coordinate resources for small business OHS needs

This August the Victorian Government is conducting a month-long event the Small Business Festival.  The Festival is run by the Department of Business and Innovation and promises to

“…provide attendees with the essential inspiration, skills and information to start, build and run a business.”

Occupational health and safety does not feature.  WorkSafe Victoria, the state OHS regulator whose mission is

“Working with the community to deliver outstanding workplace safety, together with quality care and insurance protection to workers and employers.”

WorkSafe operates a small business support service.  It produces guidance material on workplace safety targeted to the small business sector.  In its own WorkSafe Week, it provides presentations to medium-sized businesses but it is not participating in a Small Business Festival organised by one of its colleagues in the State Government.

WorkSafe devotes considerable resources to WorkSafe Week and tries to be as attractive to all sectors of Victorian business as it can possibly be but surely some of those resources can be allocated to providing authoritative advice and guidance in support of a month-long festival by a government agency.

The Small Business Festival is not devoid of OHS events but none of them seem to have the authority that WorkSafe would have provided with its own events.  The Festival’s website provides a search category of Workplace Health and Safety but these lead mainly to commercial events including, amongst others:

  • A $A990 course for Health and Safety Representatives, and
  • A $A288 course in “the testing and tagging skills required for testing electrical appliances, tools and apparatus”.  Many worksites will only permit testing and tagging by a certified electrician so the Statement of Participation may be of restricted value.

There are only two free OHS-related events:

The second of these events is likely to be the most worthwhile of all the events because it is being conducted by the Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety and Health Group (BROSH).  BROSH is one a network of small safety groups in the urban and regional areas of Victoria.  The organisation has a large number of corporate members, including WorkSafe Victoria, as shown by the flyer for this event.

Small businesses in Victoria are being disadvantaged by the lack of support from WorkSafe and professional safety associations to the Small Business Festival.  Not every small business owner is available in WorkSafe Week at the end of October.  Not every small business owner can afford almost a thousand dollars to train one person or almost three hundred dollars for skills that may not be allowed to be applied.

State Governments need to begin coordinating their resources to capitalise on the initiatives of its agencies, authorities and departments.  All businesses have a complexity of safety and health issues that need support and clarity from authoritative voices, from a variety of sources and throughout the year.  As one WorkSafe presentation says, business owners must juggle their priorities to try to ensure the safety of their workforce at the same time as building a sustainable business.

The lack of affordable OHS advice during the Small Business Festival is sending the wrong message to the economic sector that needs good OHS advice the most.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories business, campaign, education, government, guidance, OHS, safety, small business, Uncategorized, WorkSafeTags , , ,

2 thoughts on “Governments need to coordinate resources for small business OHS needs”

  1. It\’s true that not everyone who operates small or medium sized businesses can get to the 14 locations and 100+ events during Work Safe Week, but there\’s no shortage of free activities during the year where they can get help with workplace safety, return to work for injured people and workers compensation.

    WorkSafe puts a lot of its educational effort into Work Safe Week, but since January we\’ve also run a statewide roadshow on the main issues around national OHS harmonisation, a major forum on return to work (March) and in May our annual statewide roadshow on OHS/workers compensation/premium.

    There are also briefings ahead of Safe Towns campaign visits which are
    well-attended, as are the quarterly return to work network events staged across Melbourne.

    WorkSafe also takes part in activities run by other government agencies like the ATO and Business Victoria, attends all the major farm field days to help the agricultural sector as well as events run by business groups and industry associations and in support of our sponsorships.

    All these events provide time for questions and there\’s generally no shortage of them.

    WorkSafe\’s free three-hour consultancy program is directly aimed at helping small business operators wanting to review safety, but don\’t necessarily know where to begin.

    On this point, a major reason for visits by inspectors are about education rather than dealing with things after someone has been hurt or killed and there is a high rate of compliance when problems are identified.

    We also work closely with stakeholders on the development of guidance material so the issues of direct interest to their members are addressed.

    Apart from all this, businesses wanting help with making safety improvements can call WorkSafe\’s advisory service (9641 1444) or visit the website – – where they\’ll find information on their industry or particular jobs and how they can meet their obligation to provide and maintain a safe workplace.

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